Capital Flight and Bitcoin Regulation

Date01 September 2016
AuthorZhiyong Tu,Lan Ju,Timothy (Jun) Lu
Published date01 September 2016
Capital Flight and Bitcoin
Peking University HSBC Business School, University Town, Nanshan District, Shenzhen
518055, China
This paper studies the risk of Bitcoin being used for the purpose of capital
ight. We propose a new indicator, the bitcoin-implied exchange rate dis-
count, to identify empirically capital ight via Bitcoin. Using data from the
two largest bitcoin exchanges in the world during our sample period, BTC
China and Bitstamp, we nd strong evidence of capital ight from the Chi-
nese Renminbi to the US Dollar via Bitcoin before the Peoples Bank of China,
Chinas central bank, announced its regulatory policy on December 5, 2013,
while the evidence displays no trace of capital ight after the announcement.
The Peoples Bank of Chinas Bitcoin restriction policy successfully halts the il-
licit capital outow via Bitcoin, thereby providing valuable policy implications
for government regulation on Bitcoin, as well as on other virtual currencies.
Bitcoin is probably the most successfuland probably the most controversialvirtual
currency scheme to date (European Central Bank (ECB) 2012). Based on a decentralized,
peer-to-peer system, Bitcoin operates at a global level and can be used as currency for a
variety of transactions for both virtual and real goods and services. Over the past few
years, the increasingly wider adoption of bitcoins in everyday business also reveals some
of its inherent risks, which draws the attention of regulators around the world.
The ECB (2012) report warns of the potential risk that criminals, fraudsters,
and money launderers could use Bitcoin to perform illegal activities. Most gov-
ernments in the world impose some restrictions on Bitcoin. For example, China
announced on December 5, 2013 that bitcoin transactions were prohibited for
nancial institutions and payment companies, while individuals could still trade
bitcoins. A few countries enforced full prohibition of Bitcoin. For example,
Iceland banned bitcoin transactions because of the capital controls put in place
in 2008 to stop money ight on the króna.
*We thank Professor Ramazan Gencay and the anonymous referee for their helpful comments and
suggestions. We also thank the support from the HSBC Financial Research Institute at Peking Univer-
sity. This article is for consideration for the Letters Section.
1 The legality of Bitcoin by country can be obtained from, a website that
provides regulatory information regarding Bitcoin around the globe.
© 2015 International Review of Finance Ltd. 2015
International Review of Finance, 16:3, 2016: pp. 445455
DOI: 10.1111/ir.12072

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